IOC Changes Mind About Russian, Belarusian Inclusion at Asian Games Later This Month

by Riley Overend 1

September 04th, 2023 Asia, International, News

With three weeks remaining until the Asian Games later this month in Hangzhou, China, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has changed its mind about Russian and Belarusian participation at the event.

The IOC had previously advocated for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Asian Games since they remain barred from most Olympic qualifying events in Europe due to their countries’ invasion of Ukraine last February. At a meeting in July, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) approved a maximum of 500 athletes from Russia and Belarus for the event.

But last week, the IOC reversed course without much explanation.

“The concept of the participation of athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports at the Asian Games 2023 was explored as discussed at the Olympic Summit in December 2022, but was not feasible due to technical reasons,” the IOC told the Indian Express.

The OCA confirmed that the decision was not theirs but the IOC’s.

Perhaps the U-turn had more to do with the recent OCA election than Russia and Belarus. In July, Sheikh Talal Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah was elected OCA president over fellow Kuwaiti and current World Aquatics president Husain Al-Musallam, 24 votes to 20. Soon after, though, the IOC banned Sheikh Talal’s brother, former OCA president Sheikh Ahmad, for his “undeniable impact” on the election. The IOC’s ethics commission determined that the OCA’s election should not be recognized until a full review is carried out.

There might still be hope for Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in other Olympic qualifying events in Asia or Africa to punch their tickets to Paris next summer. Since April, Ukraine has boycotted any international event — Olympic qualifying competitions and the Olympics themselves — where Russians are present, but that stance seems to have softened in recent months amid criticism from IOC president Thomas Bach and artistic swimmers Maryna and Vladyslava Aleksiiva.

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15 days ago

So, you may ask, how do the Kuwaitis manage to get those high positions? Easy answer, they buy the votes of the poorer Asian countries by paying for their fees to international organizations.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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